For my mom: if the font of my blog is too small, just press (ctrl) and (+) until the font is at the desired size.This can be applied to any webpages you view - makes life a lot easier when dealing with us web-people who put too much value in the look of the page to make the font actually readable (sorry!).
Plenty or gluttony? We have so much, evident in the food we are able to prepare and the amount we are able to eat. I often feel guilt for being able to partake in such sensual pleasures when others aren't even able to afford rice. During the end of Lent, where we celebrate the Risen One, we also celebrate the tradition where we can once again eat yeast and sweets (though I don't think many abstain from these wonders anymore). Why are we able to rejoice in such plenty when there is so much poverty?
I constantly think about the international 80-20 split. 80 percent of the world (the developing nations) have only 20 percent of the GDP, while our own developing countries (with our perpetual consuming nature) produces 80 percent of the GDP. The rich developing countries are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer. The 80/20 split, the Human Development Index (HDI), Human Rights, and other ways of interpreting the international development atmosphere are drilled into our heads in university. But it is hard to relate the words to their real content - the suffering of those around the world who don't have access to food, shelter, safe water, or even safety itself. But while many don't have a background in international studies and cannot spend the time looking at the intricacies of international aid, there are some things that they can do. One such thing is Kiva. Micro-lending is one of the foremost means of pulling individuals out of poverty. And that is really what it is - helping one other individual, not a country, village or cause - just one other person, like you and I. It gives people a chance, when banks will not, to get the funds needed to pull themselves out of poverty. Its an amazing system that even allows lenders to have their money returned to them to help others, donate to the organization itself, or withdraw completely.
However, living in Vancouver, it is not hard to see what poverty is really like - all you have to do is walk down the Downtown Eastside near Hastings street. We have the poorest area code in all of North America located in this small strip rife with drug use, the sex trade, and crime. The Union Gospel Mission (http://www.ugm.ca/) is a phenomenal organization that works in this area providing basic necessities, programs to bring people out of poverty and recovery from drugs and alcohol - all this is done with the respect that is due everyone.
Every year, my Mom and I resolve to go work at a homeless shelter during the holidays, but it ends up coming to naught. This year, I am writing it down in view of the world - Mom, you and I are held accountable to go this Christmas and serve food at Union Gospel Mission.
With the guilt of having too much hanging over me causing stress and anxiety, there is only one thing to do: bake. An oxymoron almost but what else is there to do - baking and Kiva will save the world, or at least thats what I think. The smells of flour, egg and sugar turning into something marvelous seem to put a balm on the soul. Anything with a hint of pumpkin, a dash of cloves and the heady aroma of cinnamon coated with a shiny layer of glaze makes any troubles go away.
These are my favorite go-to comfort in bread form. Scones. There is nothing like them. They can be served for breakfast, tea-time, or dessert. A good scone is hard to find however - when I was in Australia a few weeks back, I was on the constant hunt for a good scone, or any scone for that matter. So when I arrived back in Canada, the first thing that massed into my mouth was a scone from Starbucks. It temporarily filled my void, but I knew that only when I made my favorites, my mom's favorite, my aunt's favorite, well, everyone's (who has had them) favorite scone would my urge to buy any scone I saw, cease.
Pumpkin sounds strange at this time of year but that is the marvel of canning - it can be enjoyed at any time.
Pumpkin Spice Scones
(I've been making these for so long, I've forgotten where I adapted them from.)
2 1/2c. Flour
1/2 c. brown sugar (packed)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ginger, nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1/2 c. cubed cold butter
3/4 c. buttermilk*
3/4 c. canned pumpkin
3 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. walnuts, pecans, or almonds (optional)
1/2 c. butter
2 tbs. (about; add slowly to see the consistency) milk
1 c. icing sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Dust baking sheet with flour. Mix all the dry ingredients together (the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves).
2. In a separate, larger bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together (the rest of the ingredients except for the nuts). Slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet. Mix until coarsely mixed together, and add the nuts. Stir until mixed, but try not to overmix.**
3. If the desired scone shape is round, roll the dough into 12 balls and flatten slightly on the baking sheet. If the desired shape is a triangle instead, shape the dough into a large rectangle, about 13" x 5", and cut into six squares. Cut each square from one end to another, to make two triangles. Place on baking sheet.
4. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Make icing: mix ingredients together until smooth. Remove scones and when cool enough, place on a cooling rack. While still slightly warm, drizzle icing evenly on top to make a moist glaze. If visible streaks of icing is desired, stiffen remaining icing mix by adding more icing sugar and wait until scones are completely cool. Put the icing in a small ziploc bag and cut the corner off of one tip (only make a very small hole). Squeeze the bag and drizzle the icing back and forth across the tops of the scones.
Enjoy with a warm milk, melted butter, or tea if you are feeling particularly British that day.
* To make buttermilk if you don't have any: measure out the same amount of milk as buttermilk (the higher in the milk fat, the better - whole milk if you have it, if not, 2%). Add one to two teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice. I'm inclined to add lemon juice because it always seem to complement the recipe more than vinegar. Stir and let sit for about 5 minutes.
** If you find the dough is quite sticky, add a little more flour.
Note: When you read my recipes, anything that calls for butter or milk, while they are marvelous things that do make the recipe taste that much better, are substituted for lactose-free alternatives, due to my taste tester's unruly stomach.